Men's National Cup Begins
FIVE EBL Division One teams will be in action when the National Cup tips-off at the weekend.
The competition, played for the oldest trophy in English basketball, has produced some thrilling finals over the last couple of seasons.
Underdogs London Leopards overcame foul trouble last season to defeat Reading Rockets 79-75 in front of a packed National Indoor Arena at Birmingham.
The previous year had seen Rockets win a thrilling game against the all-conquering Sheffield Arrows team to lift their first piece of silverware.
"It's the reason why you run a basketball club," said Leopards' general manager Dave Ryan. "It was the best feeling in the world when we lifted the cup, and it's certainly high on our list of priorities this season."
Leopards are one of eight top division clubs to receive a bye in the first round, but the five Division One sides competing over the weekend will go into their games as favourites.King's Lynn Fury
have already faced Sunday's visitors Lincolnshire Wildcats
, winning a pre-season friendly by 25 points - and with two EBL Trophy games under their belts, they should progress.
The winner of that tie will face a home game against Division One side Nottingham Knights
or third division outfit Bradford Dragons
. The sides are due to meet at Nottingham Trent University on Sunday.
However it will be a first competitive game of the season for Northampton Neptunes
, who have opted out of the EBL Trophy following their late promotion to Division One.
Mark Spatcher's side face a trip into the unknown when they travel to Division Four newcomer Wellingborough Pheonix
, who joined from the Northants League.
Northampton will be giving a debut to 6' 6" American centre Andrew St Clair, who have NCAA III all-American honours.
"Andrew's signed a two year deal with us, and I'm sure that he'll be an important figure here at Northampton," said coach Spatcher.
"We're still a little short in numbers and are looking to sign at least three more players to play a significant role."
The winners of the tie travel to holders Leopards in the second round.
Under new coach Pete Deppisch, London Capitals
should have little trouble defeating Eastside Eagles
at Capital City Academy on Sunday, with the winners traveling to either Omega London or Colchester United Tigers.
Division Two champions West Herts Warriors
also face a side from London, with Westside
the visitors to Herts Sports Village on Sunday. The winners face a trip to the midlands where they will face BC University of Wolverhampton
or Division Four newcomers Milton Keynes Lions II
There is one other all-London clash with London Towers
- now only fielding a side in EBL 3 - hosting Hackney White Heat
, while Brixton have received a bye following the withdrawal of London United.
Last season's runners-up, Reading Rockets, will face either neighbours Oxford Brookes University
from Division Four or second division side Aston Athletics
in round two, while 2005 finalists Sheffield Arrows will host Huddersfield Heat
or Wear Valley Warriors
Two sides who will be looking to make double progress are Loughborough Student Cardinals
and Leeds Met Carnegie
The pair meet on Saturday afternoon, and the winner will receive a bye in the second round following Worcester Wolves' withdrawal.